story 1 June 2019 By Hannah Cockroft, MBE

Paralympian Hannah Cockroft MBE tells us how DofE gave her independence

“My Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) was my gateway to freedom and confidence. At 15 years old, I had never been away from home on my own and I had never really travelled or explored the world, so when my senior school offered the chance to sign up, I decided I liked the idea of challenge and opportunity.

I learnt what The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award required, I realised I already took part in activities that ticked off a lot of the sections but as I grew into my Award, I changed with it, and took on new activities to fill my sections and to help me grow as a person. I learnt how to steer a canal boat, I learnt how to read a map and set up a camping stove and I got to take part in a Police Force training course, which was the career path I intended to follow at the time.

More importantly, my DofE taught me to communicate better with people. It taught me how to work with a group of people who I didn’t know very well but who also didn’t know very much about me or of my abilities. It taught me that it was OK to ask people, those within my team or those outside of it, for help when I needed it but also set me the test of trying to find my own ways of doing things. This is a trait that took a lot of learning but one that I have had to use a lot during my journey to the top of the sporting podium.

My DofE gave me my independence in using my wheelchair and forced me to learn the skills to use it properly as there would now be no one there to push me around. Without my wheelchair I would never have got through my expedition. I liked having the opportunity to be away from my parents and other adults in an uncontrolled environment where I was treated like everyone else for the first time. There were no exceptions and no special requirements so I had to learn to problem solve with my team and on my own.

My Award made me a lot more accepting of my disability and my newly found abilities. This self-belief has seen me go on to represent Great Britain at two Paralympic Games, bringing five Gold medals back to our great nation.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award was not easy and I considered giving up many times as it pushed me so far out of my comfort zone, but it taught me not to give up when there are worries or unknown situations involved as there is always a solution if you are brave enough to find it.

My Duke of Edinburgh’s Award encouraged me to recognise my true potential. It pushed me to reach beyond my own capabilities. It let me seek new adventures, explore unbeaten paths and taught me to dare to dream.”

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